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Ask Aphrodite

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Dear Carls,

Every relationship goes through bad phases, terrible ones, even. Times where you can’t believe how awful the other person is, how they could be so annoying, so insensitive, so oblivious to your needs, so careless, so very, very wrong. This happens with friends, family members, romantic partners, roommates, and even communities. In times like these we often can’t even think of a single thing that’s right about the person. The immediacy of their wronging us overpowers everything else about them to the point that they’re not just bad; they’re the worst.

But then- there’s this crazy moment. It comes after angry letters and journal entries, after venting to friends and crying to parents. It comes when you sit down with each other and have an honest and direct confession, and you realize that neither of you is the worst, and in fact, you’re both humans and as such, have made mistakes, communicated imperfectly, misjudged each other, caused harm, been hurt, and after all of that, (here’s the moment) you understand each other better than ever and accept each other more than ever before. Each time this happens, your relationship reaches a higher level.

So, in an attempt to take our relationship to the next level, Carleton, I would like to have an honest and direct confession.

First, I would like to apologize for the advice I gave two weeks ago to Pining Patrick. I am sorry that I gave advice that made people upset and I apologize to anyone who was bothered by this article. In telling Patrick ways of flirting, I failed to specify very carefully that he should not do this during a TA session, as this would have the potential to make the TA uncomfortable.

Second, I would like to apologize for writing a response to the critique of the original article that came off as sassy and made people feel that serious concerns were not being taken seriously. The rest of the campus did not have the privilege of seeing the note to which I was responding, a note that was written in majority capital letters and swear words. The aggression and hate directed at me for what I considered to be a great lapse in judgment made me sassy. I regret, however, taking my sass out publicly and subjecting everyone to a rude response.

The truth is that I took the critique of the original article seriously, and what I tried to convey was serious. To address the issue of singling out individuals: When asked a question for the column, I change names, gender, and all identifying information to protect anonymity. To address the issue of women in STEM fields: This article was not about women in science and the problem with it was not about women in science. The problem is in advising anyone to flirt when the other person is obliged to be there. Women in all fields face advances from coworkers or inferiors. In fact, people of all gen- ders face advances from coworkers and inferiors. To address the issue of con- sent: The goal for Patrick was to work up enough rapport with the TA so that once the class was over, he could ask her out, an invariably consensual question. When I advised Patrick on actions to take prior to that, I chose ones I thought were innocent and harmless, ones people do in a friendly way all the time (ie. eye contact, usage of name, arm touch, question-ask- ing). But I’m not in charge of deciding what’s innocent and harmless. Nobody gets to decide what’s innocent and harmless to someone else.

In keeping with my honest dialogue, I would like to confess that I was absolutely less than pleased with some of the comments people made regarding Ask Aphrodite. I think anyone who read my original article could see that it was not intended to be malicious, demeaning, or hurtful. The simple fact is I was trying to offer ways to get on someone’s radar and I made a mistake in suggesting the propriety of when to do so. But in these past two weeks, many things were put into my mouth that I simply will not accept. To say that I endorse sexual harassment or that I would ever say to someone that they should be able to take a joke about sexual harassment is unacceptable. Do not conflate my words with those of others.

To the individuals who suggested my article encouraged the idea that women are less than human, or promoted rape culture: that is an abuse of language and is inappropriate.

It’s easy to log into Facebook and participate in the mass demonization of someone, but I encourage you to think carefully about what someone has actually said before condemning them. I also encourage you to think about the fact that whoever you are condemning is a human, and is most likely not the worst.

I think it’s important to remember that people take interest in people they work for, people they work with,
and people who work for them all the time. Especially in college where those roles get mixed up all the time. The dilemma of Pining Patrick is neither offensive nor rare. When this happens, we can’t deny that we often treat these people differently in attempts to get to know them better. And I suspect people treat those they want to get to know better differently all the time, whether it is in a classroom, in a studying session, in a dining hall, or at the bookstore. This will not be a truly honest confession if I don’t admit that I suspect hypocrisy in the righteousness of some.

I truly appreciate the comments of many who were able to increase my understanding and caution in giving advice. To those people, thank you.

Fighting is exhausting. Sometimes the best thing afterwards is to take some personal time and think. I hope that in talking this all out, our relationship is improving and as a community, we’re reaching greater understanding and appreciation.

Not sure if we’re ready to hug it out, though, so for now:

Hearts, Aphro <3

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